Winter Olympics: Short Track Speed Skating Live

Short Track Speed Skating - Day 13VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA — Short track speed skating is famously unpredictable, often full contact and, above all, fast.

I’m here at Pacific Coliseum watching the men’s 1500 meter. The competition started off with a bang. Right out of the gates in Heat 1, Olivier Jean of Canada set a new Olympic record. In Heat 2, the USA’s Jordan Malone was disqualified. And in Heat 3, Jung-Su Lee of South Korea set yet another Olympic Record and Team USA’s J.R. Celski qualified for the semi-finals. Now, Heat 4 is underway.

But we’re waiting for the legendary Apolo Anton Ohno to take the ice. He’s going for his sixth Olympic medal. If he succeeds, he’ll break the record for most medals won by an American man in the Winter Olympics.

Will he or won’t he? Stay tuned!

5:19 pm: Apolo Anton Ohno is on the ice warming up. He looks pensive and focused. But if there’s anything we know about Ohno it’s that he’s a performer. On the ice and on the dance floor–he’s a “Dancing with the Stars” champion as well–Ohno knows how to deliver.

5:22 pm: They’re off. This crowd is alive. Probably the loudest I’ve heard yet. Lots of cow bells. Screams at every turn. Ohno is hanging back, waiting to make his move.

5:23 pm: Ohno is skating with Candain Guillaume Bastille of Canada. Thus the rowdy crowd. The stands are packed. Hardly an empty seat in the house.

5:24 pm: Ohno easily wins the heat with a heafty lead! As I temporarily stop typing to clap and cheer. I was an American before I was a journalist after all.

5:26 pm: Canada’s Bastille was disqulified. But Ohno leaves the ice with a big smile and a wave. One race down. Only two races to go until Olympic history.

5:59 pm: Sorry for the long delay. I had some technical difficulties that I think (hope) have been resolved. While we wait for the men to return from their break, how about some short track fun facts? The ideal ice temperature for short track is -5.5 degrees Celsius. Nine of 10 Canadian short track skaters come from Quebec. Short track was introduced to the Winter Olympics as a demonstration sport in Calgary in 1988. It was made an official medal event in Albertvlle, France in 1992. And it cost $19,280,000 to renovate the Pacific Coliseum for these Olympic games.

6:01 pm: In other Olympic breaking news, the women’s moguls medal competition is underway just north of Vancouver at Cypress Mountian. Hannah Kearney of Team USA advanced to the final in first place. Teammates Heather McPhie is in third, Shannon Bahrke is sixth, and Michelle Roark is seventh. Canadian favorite Jenn Heil is in second. It’s going to be a border battle: seven of the top nine ladies are American or Canadian. They’ll battle it out in the final later tonight.

6:09 pm: Thanks for the question, Ian. In short track, the skaters are racing each other. It’s fast and it’s physical. First, they skate in heats of six. The top three skaters from each heat advance to the semis. Then there are three semi-final heats. The top two skaters from each heat advance to Finals A, to determine the medals. The second two skaters in the semi-final heats advance to Final B, to determine 7-12th place.

6:16 pm: In about two mintues the 1500m semi-finals will start. The zamboni is prepping the ice as I type. On the loud speakers, two french speakers are interviewing each other. I have no idea what they are saying. And now they’re showing an Olympic video on the jumbo screen. The crowd is talking, buzzing. I see a lot of red out there, in clumps and patches. One man walking up the stairs near me has a Canadian flag draped around him like a blanket. Short Track - Day 2

6:23 pm: Apolo is back on the ice! He’s up in Semi-final 1. He has to place in the top two of six skater to have a shot at a medal in the final.

6:25 pm: They’re announcing the lineup. HUGE cheers for Canadian Charles Hamelin. Even bigger cheers for Apolo. I guess this crowd likes a champion more than they like a Canadian.

6:26 pm: Toeing the line. False start. And toeing the line again. They’re off!

6:28 pm: They make it look so easy hugging those turns. Ohno is moving up.

6:29 pm: Ohno is in third. This crowd is nuts! Ohno moves up to second! And qualifies!

6:30 pm: South Korean Jung-Su Lee set his second Olympic record of the night, finishing in first place. Lee and Ohno will advance to the final.

6:33 pm: This might be the most exciting sporting event I’ve ever seen in person. The crowd is alive. The tension in the air is palpable and every turn is a nail biter. How is short track not a more mainstream sport? I could watch this stuff year round.

6:34 pm: Semi-final 2 is skating now. The crowd is behind Jean Olivier of Canada. The announcers are calling the race in French and English. The Canadian is making a break for it! And he crashes! The crowd sighs a collective “Oh!”

6:39 pm: Advancing to the final is another Korean and a Chinese skater. Now the third semi-final is up, featuring J.R. Celski of the U.S. Celski won five medals at the 2009 World Championships. Some are calling him the next Apolo Ohno. And they’re off!

6:42 pm: Celski is in fourth. Looking to finish in the top two to qualify–he moves to first!

6:42 pm: Celski holds off some jockeying…and it looks like he finishes second! Stay tuned for official results…

6:43 pm: Yes, Celski will advance to the final! That’s it for the semi-finals. Both Apolo Ohno and J.R. Celski of Team USA will advance to the final to compete for the gold medal. Now we have a break again, while the skaters rest.

6:47 pm: Apolo Ohno is just one race away from becoming the most decorated male Winter Olympian in history. If he wins two medals these games he’ll be the most decorated Olympian of all time. Speed skater Bonnie Blair currently holds that title. Can Ohno medal? Certainly. He’s got the chops, he’s got the experience and he’s going into the final with the second fastest time.

Can he win the gold?

“I’m in the best physical shape of my life and mentally I feel very, very, very good,” Ohno said.

But Jung-Su Lee isn’t going to hand it to him. The Korean team is fierce. In 2006, Team Korea scooped up six of the eight short track gold medals. That’s nothing to sneeze at.

“Short track is not a sport where you can actually give predictions,” Ohno said. Case in point was the 2002 Winter Olympics when Australia’s Steven Bradbury won gold in the 1000m by simply being the last man standing. Ohno literally skidded across the finish on his belly to win the silver. Watch it here.

But the unpredictable sport hasn’t stopped Ohno before and might not stop him now.

“Obviously I’m a competitor and I want to do well,” he said. “I want a podium. I want to win races.”

7:00 pm: Right now, the ladies’ 3000m relay semi-finals are racing between the men’s races. They’ll race the final later in the week. The relay really is like a roller derby. There’s a swirl of racers on the track and another swirl circling inside waiting to tag in. The crowd is SO into this sport. It’s a constant wave of noise. And once the final lap gun sounds, they just lose it.

7:05 pm: From the first ladies’ 3000m relay semi-final the U.S. and South Korea will advance to the final, which will take place on Feb. 24th.

7:08 pm: Canada is racing in the second ladies’ semi-final. The cowbells are non-stop. They’re currently in second, wearing Team Canada’s exceptionally ugly uniforms (see my post on men’s long track speed skating.)

7:11 pm: The crowd is cheering “Can-a-da! Can-a-da!” in unison. And Canada advances to the final! Check back in with the ladies on Feb. 24 when the relays will skate for medals. Meanwhile, the men’s 1500m final is up in about 5 mintues…

7:14 pm: Now, to keep us entertained, there’s another video on the jumbo screen–it looks like an lengthy ad for British Columbia. The crowd is wating anxiously. Only a few (and I mean a few) of the Coliseum’s 14,239 seats are empty. The press triubunes are high above the action at center ice, so we can see every turn, every jostle.

7:18 pm: I’m really nervous for Ohno. You’d think I know him or something. But I guess in a way we all do. Now the announcer is warming up the crowd. “Are you excited for the men’s 1500 final?” The crowd: “Wooooooooooo!” Now in French. How do you “Wooo” in French?

7:20 pm: They’ve got cub-worthy techno playing in here. The crowd is doing the wave all around the coliseum. Well, everyone but us media. We’re sitting like bumps on a log.

7:22 pm: The crowd–still doing the wave. I think it’s gone around like five times now.

7:23 pm: Make that six AND seven.

7:25 pm: Here come the skaters for Final B, which determines 7th-12th place. No Americans in this final, but one Canadian: Charles Hamelin. They just announced him. The Canadian flags are a-waving. There are probably a few dozen scattered around the crowd amongst all the red and white.

7:26 pm: Okay, we have a best uniform winner! Latvia! Who knew? It’s a handsome dark plum with navy blue and white chevrons. It’s the right mix of futuristic and classic. Sport the best uniform is none other than Haralds Silovs, who is now the first Olympian to ever compete in both long and short track speed skating. He competed in the 5000m long track earlier today. And just a few hours later is in the men’s short track 1500m final. Amazing! Olympic history!

7:29 pm: This crowd is bananas! B-A-N-A-N-A-S! The Canadian won the the first final, which means he finished 7th. The way the crowd is acting, you’d think he won gold.

7:31 pm: Here we go. The final final to determine the medals. Racing for the U.S. are Ohno and Celski. This is going to be a good one. I’ll just scoot to the edge of my seat right now and save myself the trouble later.

7:33 pm: Big cheers for Ohno and Celski. This crowd is eating it up. It really makes it so much more fun. And for Olivier Jean, the Quebecer? Yeah, they’re losing their minds. The skaters are at the start. The jumbo screen says “Shhh.” And they’re off!

7:35 pm: The Canadian takes the lead and the crowd goes wild.

Men's 1500 meter Short Track Speed Skating final at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics7:36 pm: Ohno is in first, he’s passed. Oh! oh! I’m screaming on my feet! Ohno drops to fourth and then a crash! He’s safe and crusies to the silver! Ohno makes American Olympic history!

7:38 pm: I agree with Ian. This is the best sport ever! Apolo Ohno takes the silver. J.R. Celski takes the bronze. Team USA gets it done! And the gold goes to Jung-Su Lee of Korea. What a race. What a finish!

7:41 pm: I’m smiling from ear to ear. Most of the media had stopped typing. I wasn’t the only one on my feet cheering. That’s one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. Wow.

7:45 pm: It’s Day 1 of competition at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and Team USA now has two medals to start off the tally. Well done.

7:46 pm: I just got a report from my friend in the audience that she has spotted Howie Mandel, one of many Canadians who made their way to Hollywood.

7:51 pm: The medalists are slated to come out soon for a flower ceremony. The medals will be given tomorrow night. Men's 1500 meter Short Track Speed Skating final at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics7:53 pm: J.R. Celski looks so young as he receives his flowers. Nothing like that very first Olympic medal.

And Ohno. Ohno. Ohno. He is now the proud owner of six Olympic medals from three games. He looks pretty happy.

7:56 pm: Well, that’s all folks. There you have it. Two medals for team USA–silver and bronze–at the men’s short track 1500m. This was a guts on the floor race with everything you expect from short track–crashes, jostling, close calls, and best of all, victory. Tune in tomorrow for more Olympic action. I’ll be heading up to Whistler for some skiing. Good night from Vancouver!

This post originally appeared on the Washington Times Communities here on Feb. 13, 2010.

Karla Bruning


Karla Bruning is a race announcer at the TCS New York City Marathon + other major events, TV host for the New York City Triathlon + contributor to Shape, Redbook, Runner's World + other publications. She used to report for Newsweek but spent her free time squeezing in workouts. Now it's her job. She's run 8 marathons, 30 halves, 10 triathlons + open water swims. When she's not running, talking about running or writing about running, she's snuggling her baby, spoiling her dog + compulsively traveling.


03 2010

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